Tag Archives: Katie Ganshert

Book Review: Life After by Katie Ganshert

Title: Life After
Author: Katie Ganshert
Publisher: WaterBrook
Published: April 2017
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

About the Book: (from the publisher’s Web site)

It could have been me.

Snow whirls around an elevated train platform in Chicago. A distracted woman boards the train, takes her seat, and moments later a fiery explosion rips through the frigid air, tearing the car apart in a horrific attack on the city’s transit system. One life is spared. Twenty-two are lost.

A year later, Autumn Manning can’t remember the day of the bombing and she is tormented by grief—by guilt. Twelve months of the question constantly echoing. Why? Why? Why? Searching for answers, she haunts the lives of the victims, unable to rest.

Paul Elliott lost his wife in the train bombing and wants to let the dead rest in peace, undisturbed and unable to cause more pain for his loved ones. He wants normalcy for his twelve-year-old daughter and young son, to see them move beyond the heartbreak. But when the Elliotts and Autumn are unexpectedly forced together, he fears she’ll bring more wreckage in her wake. 

In Life After, Katie Ganshert’s most complex and unforgettable novel yet, the stirring prose and authentic characters pose questions of truth, goodness, and ultimate purpose in this emotionally resonant tale.

My Thoughts:

Katie Ganshert has a way of incorporating weighty topics into her novels without weighing down the story or the reader. She makes you think and feel, intersperses fun and light moments amidst the challenges, and ultimately ends on a hopeful note. At least that’s what I’ve observed in the three stories of hers that I’ve read so far. That’s A Broken Kind of Beautiful, The Art of Losing Yourself, and now this one if you’re counting. Frankly, I love that combination of elements in a story.

In this one, there’s grief, there’s guilt, there’s surviving, there’s brokenness, and there’s picking up the pieces. Not necessarily in that order. In some ways it’s about two broken people helping each other put things in perspective and move on. It explores searching for the why behind tragedy, and it explores where comfort can be found. And there’s a tender, subtle, and emotionally satisfying love story in there too, along with a whole host of other relationships among a lifelike cast of characters.

Fans of the author’s earlier books will love this one. And if you haven’t read her earlier books? Please do. Book discussion groups, and readers who appreciate a well-crafted story with complex characters, written in beautiful lyrical language, will especially want to give this one a try.

Thank you to the publisher for providing a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes.

Quick Links: About the Book | Author’s Site

Book Review: The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

Title: The Art of Losing Yourself
Author: Katie Ganshert
Published: April 2015 by WaterBrook Press
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

About the Book (publisher’s description):

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.

Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?

My Thoughts on the Book:

This is a story full of raw honesty, brokenness, grace, and hope. It’s told from two distinctive first person viewpoints. Carmen – a married woman grown distant from her husband under the strain of six miscarriages, who tries to put on a perfect façade for the outside world. And her teenage half-sister Gracie, who has run away from their alcoholic mother, in hopes of returning to a place where she once felt appreciated.

The story feels real – the characters, the situations, the emotions, the relationships, and the setting. All of it. I enjoyed coming along on the sisters’ journeys as they grow and develop in their relationships and their personal faith. And I love the fact that the characters’ problems aren’t downplayed by a too tidy ending, and yet there is a hopeful and satisfying resolution complete with an inspiring look at grace and trust.

One of my favorite parts of the whole book is when Carmen looks back at a series of what could have been seen as coincidences, and instead sees “evidence of a God who orchestrated even the most mundane details for our good” (Page 300).

Another favorite moment was when Aunt Ingrid (suffering from dementia) defends her dessert from being taken, to the point of throwing a spoon at someone, and then offers a bit of surprisingly sage advice: “’Not all things are worth saving, you know. But some are worth every ounce of fight you can throw at them.’ With all the dignity in the world, she took a few small bites of her dessert. ‘You just have to know the difference.’” (Page 53)

I brought this book along with me on a weekend trip to the beach and devoured it in the shade of a beach umbrella. Since the book was set partly at a beach-side motel, it turned out to be a particularly great fit for the weekend. I highly recommend both book and beach, taken together or separately. :)

Author Katie Ganshert’s Christy Award winning A Broken Kind of Beautiful was among my favorite reads of 2014, and this latest novel by Katie Ganshert could well be among my favorites for 2015. I think Book Groups will find it an excellent choice for discussion, and in fact, it includes a discussion guide.

Thank you to WaterBrook Multnomah for providing a paperback copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books Program in exchange for my honest review.

Quick Links: About the Book | Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert

abrokenkindofbeautifulTitle: A Broken Kind of Beautiful
Author: Katie Ganshert
Publisher: Waterbrook-Multnomah
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Romance
Published: 2014

Sigh.

You know those books you have to ration as you approach the last page because you can’t get enough and don’t want the story end?  This was one of those books.  Except I lost that battle because I couldn’t stop turning the pages.  It was that good.

Here’s what it’s about (from publisher Waterbrook-Multnomah):

Sometimes everything you ever learned about yourself is wrong.

Fashion is a fickle industry, a frightening fact for twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark. Ten years in and she’s learned a sacred truth—appearance is everything. Nobody cares about her broken past as long as she looks beautiful for the camera. This is the only life Ivy knows—so when it starts to unravel, she’ll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother’s bridal wear line—an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white.

If only her tenuous future didn’t rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Somehow, Davis sees through the façade she works so hard to maintain. He, along with a cast of other characters, challenges everything Ivy has come to believe about beauty and worth. Is it possible that God sees her—a woman stained and broken by the world—yet wants her still?

To learn more, visit the publisher’s Web site for news, reviews, and an excerpt.  But first…

Here are my thoughts:

I have a soft spot for stories that deal with forgiveness and redemption, particularly when done well, and this one handled those themes very well. Each of the characters had some tough lessons to learn over the course of the story before a happy ending could be had, but none of those lessons felt forced or contrived. Each of the characters went through gradual, sometimes painful, and definitely challenging growth, one step at a time. I absolutely loved watching it all unfold. And watch it I did. Smell and hear it too, thanks to all the vivid sensory details included.

One of the things that really got my attention was the way the author used visual items and circumstances within the surroundings as triggers and metaphors for some of the lessons the characters were learning.  It gave the book a literary quality that I really enjoyed and that tied everything together beautifully.  Here’s one of my favorite passages, drawn from pages 183-4:

“I’m glad God’s like those butterflies and not like that crab bait,” Sara said.

Davis took another bite of his peach and wiped at the juice dribbling down his chin.

Ivy raised an eyebrow. “You’re glad God’s not like a bloody chicken neck?”

He chuckled.

“I’m glad God doesn’t plunk Himself into the water and wait for us to find Him.  I’m glad He chases us like that butterfly.”

I think the butterfly vs. chicken neck metaphor illustrates an important point for the story in a way that’s vivid and memorable as well as surprising.  And I think this passage works even better in context.  You’ll just have to read the book, so you can let me know if you agree.  :)

That wasn’t the only instance where one of the characters made a meaningful point in an unexpected way.  I also thoroughly enjoyed the part on pages 260-1 where Pastor Voss looks at the familiar story of the Prodigal Son from a fresh perspective that suits this story perfectly.

A Broken Kind of Beautiful has compelling and loveable characters, a meaty subject dealt with in a touching way without becoming cheesy, and a powerful message that’s not intrusive, but feels like a natural outgrowth of the story. In some ways, this book reminds me of Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love, and I think fans of that book will enjoy this one as well. As will anyone who enjoys a good contemporary inspirational romance. I’m so glad I had the chance to read it!

Now I need to go look for Katie Ganshert’s earlier books, Wildflowers from Winter, a Carol Award Winner and Wishing on Willows, currently an INSPY Award finalist.  If they’re anything like this book, I’m looking forward to reading them as well.

A big thank you to publisher Waterbrook-Multnomah for providing me with an Advance Reading Copy of A Broken Kind of Beautiful as part of their Blogging for Books program for purposes of this review.  My review reflects my honest opinion.